Thursday, November 1, 2018

Octavia Spencer, Black History and GREEN BOOK

You know how I love to champion major breakthroughs in the field of diversity and inclusion for people of color in the film/TV industry.  Even today, our history and accomplishments can be totally overlooked by high profile white entertainment journalists.  I don't write that in a mean-spirited way. It's just a fact that I've noticed on network TV.  Here's an example involving two white gentlemen whose work I like.  In January 2017 on ABC's Good Morning America, less than five minutes before the live announcement of Oscar nominations, ABC entertainment news anchor Chris Connelly and People Magazine editor in chief Jess Cagle were on the show's daily anchors. Connelly mentioned that he was eager to see if black actors would get nominations because the "Oscars So White" controversy was still hot from the previous year.  The nominations came out.  I let loose a loud cheer in this apartment for Viola Davis. Her first Oscar nomination was for DOUBT. Her second was for Best Actress for THE HELP, co-starring Octavia Spencer. Octavia won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for THE HELP.
That January 2017 morning, Viola Davis got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for FENCES. That is why I cheered. She had just become the most Oscar nominated black actress in all Hollywood history.  It was Viola's third nomination.  I have been an Oscars history geek ever since I was in high school. Also, I'm proud to have years of national TV, radio and print entertainment reviewer/interviewer credits under my veteran belt. So, watching the Oscar nominations be announced every year is like a religion to me.

Neither Chris Connelly nor Jess Cagle said that Viola Davis had just made Oscar history. They overlooked the Denzel Washington history that same morning. He was a Best Actor Oscar nominee for FENCES. The 2-time Oscar winner had received his 7th nomination. The next year, he's continue his reign as the most Oscar-nominated black actor in Hollywood history with an 8th nomination.

Chris Connelly and Jess Cagle also missed the history that Denzel Washington was the first black actor to receive a Best Actor Oscar nomination for a performance in a film he directed -- a film that also got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.  Washington was one of the film's producers and he received an Oscar nomination in the Best Picture producer category.  He also directed his co-star to her record-breaking, history-making third Oscar nomination.

The two guest entertainment journalists missed all that history about Viola Davis when they discussed the Oscar nominations live on ABC's Good Morning America.

By the way, ABC is the network that airs the hit prime time legal drama series, How To Get Away With Murder starring...Viola Davis.  Chris and Jess didn't mention that either.  Viola Davis won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for FENCES.

Yes, I have pitched myself for years to work for ABC on its morning show. I never got a response.
Oscar winner Octavia Spencer went on to receive two more Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations -- for HIDDEN FIGURES and THE SHAPE OF WATER.  Octavia Spencer is now tied with Viola Davis.  They are the two most Oscar-nominated black actresses in Hollywood history.  They have three nominations and one win each.

The movie GREEN BOOK opens this month. It's already generated solid reviews and Oscar buzz in Best Picture category.  This film is based on a true story and a real-life travel guide that helped African American motorists travel safely through the Jim Crow South. Mahershala Ali, Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner for MOONLIGHT, stars with Viggo Mortensen.
If GREEN BOOK does get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, Octavia Spencer could make Oscar history again. She's one of the film's executive producers. Brava, Octavia!

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